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Iran tests 2nd new 'powerful' torpedo

Published April 4, 2006

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran successfully tested its second new torpedo in as many days Monday, the latest weapon to be unveiled during war games in the Persian Gulf that the military said are aimed at preparing the country's defenses against the United States.

A spokesman for the elite Revolutionary Guards suggested the new, Iranian-made torpedo was more powerful and capable of going deeper than others in its arsenal.

Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani told state television the ship-launched weapon can target submarines at any depth and is powerful enough to "break a heavy warship" in two. He did not give the name of the new torpedo or any details of its speed or range.

The torpedo was tested in the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow entrance of the gulf and a vital corridor for oil supplies.

The United States said that while Iran may have made "some strides" in its military, it is likely to be exaggerating its capabilities.

"We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons system by both foreign and indigenous measures," Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman said in Washington.

But "the Iranians have also been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities," he said.

The Revolutionary Guards, the elite branch of Iran's military, have been holding their maneuvers - codenamed the "Great Prophet" - since Friday, touting what they call domestically built technological advances in their armed forces.

A day earlier, Iran announced it had tested a different new torpedo - the high-speed "Hoot," which means "whale." Iran said the Hoot, moving at up to 223 mph, was too fast for any enemy ship to elude. On Friday, it tested the Fajr-3, a missile that it said can avoid radars and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads.

A top Guards commander, Gen. Hossein Kargar, said Monday the maneuver aims at preparing the troops in case of attack by the United States - often referred to by Iran's clerical regime as "the global arrogance."

Many in Iran worry over the possibility of U.S. military action in the escalating dispute over Iran's nuclear program, an option Washington has refused to rule out. The United States is pushing for U.N. sanctions against Iran, accusing it of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies the claim, saying its program aims to generate electricity, and it has so far rejected a demand by the U.N. Security Council that it give up uranium enrichment, a key part of the nuclear process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or material for a warhead.

Hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday the United States and Europe were "confused" if they thought they could stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Speaking after talks with Guinea's foreign minister, he said Iran would pursue its right to develop nuclear energy but vowed its program would be "transparent" and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.

More than 17,000 Revolutionary Guards forces, along with some 1,500 warships, boats and aircraft are taking part in the weeklong maneuvers in a 100,000 square mile area of the Gulf.

After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran's military has been working to boost its domestic production of armaments. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane. It announced in early 2005 that it had begun production of torpedoes, though it was not clear if the ones tested during the maneuvers were the first to be put into action.

The United States and its Western allies have been watching in Iran's progress in missile capabilities with concern. Iran already possesses the Shahab-3 missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and hitting U.S forces in the Middle East and Israel.

Ali Ansari, an Iran specialist at Britain's Royal Institute for International Affairs, cautioned that there is likely "a little bit of bluster" in Iran's claims for its new weapons.

"They're trying to impress," he told the Associated Press. They aim to "prove to the West that they can hit Israel and close the Straits of Hormuz. They're saying if you hit us, then we can hit back."

Iran's leaders also want to reassure Iranians the country can defend itself. "There's a lot of worry (among the public) over what direction the country is taking, and they want to show that Iran can hold its own against the U.S."

Former U.N. inspector: There's time to negotiate

OSLO, Norway - Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday that Iran is at least five years away from developing a nuclear bomb, leaving time to peacefully negotiate a settlement.

Blix said he doubted the United States would invade Iran.

"But there is a chance that the U.S. will use bombs or missiles against several sites in Iran," he was quoted by Norwegian news agency NTB as saying. "Then, the reactions would be strong, and would contribute to increased terrorism."

[Last modified April 4, 2006, 03:00:35]

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